First Graduates

In a little more than a week, O’Neal will be holding its 44th annual commencement. For the first time in a long time, it will be held outside on campus with a private audience consisting of the families of our graduates, faculty, and staff. Cameron Compton Sadler ’84 will be the commencement speaker.

This reminds us of O’Neal’s first graduation in 1977. It only took five years for O’Neal to expand its offerings from grades four through six to grades one through twelve – “a full primary and secondary curriculum” as Chair of the Board of Trustees Ted Taws defined.

The class of 1977 was comprised of 18 students. The commencement speaker was Dr. Emerson Johnson III. Dr. Johnson was the keynote speaker for the School’s opening in 1971. Headmaster Bob Haarlow felt it most appropriate to have him return as commencement speaker for the School’s first graduating class. He had served as headmaster for North Cross School in Roanoke, Charlotte Country Day School, and Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh among many other leadership positions with private education institutions.

1977 Graduates

As named in 1977 — Beth Adams, Jo Ellen Anderson, Pam Baines, Peggy Bell, Bobby Brewer, Angela Drexel, Francisca Drexel, Steve Dummit, Tanya Greene, Wayland Johnson, Richard “Dickie” Joyner, Mike McCoy, Mary McGovern, Kevin McIntyre, Leslie McIntyre, Iva Newton, Joan Phillips, Cindy Wallace.

Advice from the Valedictorian

Richard Joyner was the first valedictorian for O’Neal. He started out at UNC-Chapel Hill and later transferred to Wake Forest University. A financial planner, he is the president of the Dallas -based Tolleson Wealth Management and is the president and CEO of the Tolleson Private Wealth Management group. In an earlier article, Mr. Joyner gave the following advice for those getting started with their careers —

Work hard – I’m not smarter than most people, but I’ve always been willing to work hard. And I’ve always had this intuitive sense that whatever I’m willing to go after – I mean REALLY go after – I can do it.  I’ve always liked the saying ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get.’ And I generally don’t buy all the talk these days of ‘following your passion.’ That suggests to me that it’s just sitting there waiting for everyone to find it.  I think it takes a lot of work to find what you are – and are not – passionate about. But when you find it, wow!

Give back – early in my career (and at O’Neal and in college) so many people were willing to help me in so many ways.  One of the things I almost always do – even today – is to try to ‘pay it forward.’ I try to help anyone who asks figure out how to look for jobs, or critique their resume or try to make other introductions for them.  When you do that regularly, it comes back to you many times over.

Be curious – Never stop learning. In my profession, it’s a requirement, but it’s valuable in any profession.  Always work to make yourself better. And learning things that are outside of your profession gives you a much better perspective on so many things.

Take risks – don’t be afraid to fail, because failure teaches you the most.  I keep a sign on my desk that says ‘fear kills more dreams than failure.’ And I believe it.”

Falcons Fly to 50

O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.

Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388

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